A US shipping company’s endeavour to turn the Mississippi River into a US highway for maritime international trade has received $25m in support.

In 2020, American Patriot Holdings (APH) joined the New Orleans-area Port of Plaquemines to add a terminal for feeder vessels that would bring containers from the Midwest to ultra-large boxships in the port destined for international trade.

The service, called American Patriot Container Transport (APCT), is set to have two other river terminals in the St Louis and Memphis areas.

The state of Missouri has invested $25m toward building the St Louis-area terminal at the port of Herculaneum in Jefferson City, about 48 km south of St Louis.

The state grant will be used to fund cranes, conveyor belts, lifts and other equipment for the terminal.

Hawtex Development, lead developer for the feeder vessel initiative, confirmed in May that it has commitments from other partners to help build the terminal on about 75 acres by 2024.

“Our vision is to offer a new-value added service to the supply chain, which will provide optionality at a lower cost for the shippers,” APCT chief executive Sal Litrico said.

Hawtex is working on identifying other ports on the river that can have container vessel terminals with container yards, such as landings in Memphis, Joliet in Illinois and Fort Smith in Kansas.

AP Moller-Maersk’s APM Terminals will operate the Plaquemines terminal. Operators of other terminals will be determined while the Herculaneum and Memphis ports are being built.

The terminals will accommodate flat container vessels designed for Mississippi River travel. APCT is accepting bids from US shipyards to build an initial four Jones Act vessels.

“In the US, this mode of transportation has not really been trusted because in the past, it normally had been done by barge here,” said Denson White, APM Terminals’ director of customer engagement.

“We’re actually creating river vessels that are strategically built for the purpose of utilizing the Mississippi River to its absolute fullest and also the tributaries.”

APCT is soliciting long-term cargo commitments from beneficial cargo owners to use the container vessel service.